Tag Archives: fiction

From My Hard Drive

Author’s Note: This is a reprint of a short story than originally ran in SPLIT Quarterly.


He weaves the thick strips of brown leather together slowly, seemingly fascinated that they have a smooth and a rough side. On the suede he traces his index finger slowly, almost lovingly, pushing against the grain, and then smoothing it down with the grooves of his fingerprints.

She looks him over, wanting to make eye contact and knowing he’s not about to grant that small favor to her.

“Hi, honey,” she says, in as much sing-song as she can muster.

He goes about looping another strip of belt material into the snake he already created. She sees that he is making a neat pattern of light and chocolate brown leather. A bit of sweetness in this bland, quiet universe of his. His hair is tousled, even matted in a few places, and he smells a little of urine. Smelling that upsets her. She needs to speak to the staff about that.

She flinches as a man, across the floor from her, squeals at a piece of Formica that is escaping the countertop one increment at a time, near the arts and crafts station. He is suddenly obsessed, slipping his fingers under it and listening to the flap as it slaps back down where it was still glued in place. Flap, flap, flap, flap.

“What are you making there,” she asks the beltmaker.

He continues the pattern. “Water,” he whispers. Read More…

Friday Fiction: Running from Zombies

I think this is a cute story (as zombie stories go), but it’s never going to sell to a market, so I’m publishing it as part of a brand-spankin’ new, occasional series of Friday fiction pieces. I hope you enjoy reading it.


Ezra walks like a drunk sailor, or how I think a drunk sailor would walk, because like I have never seen one but I’ve heard that sailors drink a lot and drinking makes people stagger around the way my little brother does, but whatever, Ezra stumbles around the house all the time. Mostly he clings on to furniture if it’s near enough to cling to, but some of the stuff that Mom Two buys on her antiques shopping sprees is really tippy, so then I have to rush up to Ez and make sure that he doesn’t bonk his head or break some fancy Louis XIV chair in the process. It gets tiring, but the extra allowance is worth it. Plus he’s cute, and so when we’re out somewhere like the arcade or the hipster park where everyone beautiful plays lawn Frisbee or whatever the hell it is, people come up to us all agog and shit because Ezra is teetering around, saying “arararar gagagaga Amuhwee” which is some apparently adorable pronunciation of my name, Emily.

Yes, our parents gave their two children E names. It is so awesome being us, let me just say. Actually my original name was not Emily. I had to convince my parents that I was really a girl. It wasn’t easy to get them to believe me, but they’re more or less okay with it now, and I have learned all kinds of ways to be a more patient person. The universe gave me my parents so I would learn how to get what I need, and then it gave me Ezra so I would continue to work out my core muscles. Thanks, universe, for looking out for me.

The phone rings. It’s my friend Iggy who is also trans and a year younger than me. He left his extremely crappy high school because of constant bullying. Iggy is funny as hell lately because he finally started hormones after years on the blockers and now he texts me every time a new chin hair appears. Seriously. I have like 126 texts from him, all about freaking chin hair. Guys are so weird. Read More…

Excerpt from Short Story, Heart of Silence

Just a bit of what I’m working on this month:

Broken mirror by my house Reginald runs down the hallway, his sneakers squeaking on the tired linoleum. It’s Joe in B14 again. Alzheimer’s dementia, sometimes gets combative. Reginald is the only orderly on this shift who knows how to calm Joey down. He wouldn’t have to beat a trail to the door so often if the fucking doctor would get this guy the medicine he needs, but hey, ole Reg is here to take care of things.

He bursts into the room. Lime green walls, plastered with random bits of newspaper articles because Joe insists that’s how people stay on top of current events. Someone pays for Joe’s private room because his insurance certainly doesn’t include that, but nobody knows who this sugar momma or daddy is. And why don’t they ever come visit?

Joe is screaming at the mirror in his bathroom. It’s full of streaks and a lot of the silver on the back side of the glass is missing so it doesn’t even but half-reflect a person anymore. But Joe is a stubborn bastard, so when Reginald runs in he finds Joe leaning on the sink, staring at himself and screaming.

“This mirror is broken,” he says.

“Come over here, Jocelyn. It’s okay.”

“What evil did you put in this mirror? Why are you doing this to me?” Read More…

How to Write Trans Characters (Or at Least Some Decent Ideas on the Subject)

Ev holding his memoirFor the most part last week’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop in LA was a love fest of prose writers, faculty, and poets. We sang karaoke together, we gave supportive critiques of each other’s work, we grumbled about dining hall food in an unseasoned bonding moment. If the workshop was in part to help us network, we hit a grand slam of connectedness. There were a couple of struggles, however, and one of them involved talking about how to help cisgender people “write” trans characters. Not surprisingly, several of us got hung up on definitions and the inclusivity of a given category of gender identity (or even gender-related identity). It’s not that we didn’t work through these issues, and everyone did their best to tease out what their questions were exactly and where they were triggered, and so on, but I’d like to suggest some other ways folks can write about trans people without maybe getting too caught up on the differences between changing definitions. And with all due respect to Jacob Hale et al’s list of how to write on transgender issues, that is really a non-fiction list, and as such, not as helpful for the fiction writer (but writers should read it anyway).

Learn about transfolk and the tensions in the trans community—Yes, one should look over definition lists, asking critical questions about the assumptions that inform the definitions. For example, does the definition of “transvestite” include that it is largely viewed as an archaic and derogatory label? Does the definition of “drag king” limit it to cisgender women only, or is it inclusive of trans-identified men? Is there a discussion about the debate between people who see transsexualism as only a medical issue and those who argue all gender is socially constructed? These differences have a real effect on the ways in which trans people walk through the world, how they use language to describe themselves, and how they relate to others. If you are trying to represent them, then your trans characters should have some background (it may not ever be shown directly in the story) on how they understand themselves. Read More…

Review: Roving Pack

SassafrasLowreyRecommended reading.

I finished Sassafras Lowrey’s debut novel Roving Pack last weekend and was struck when page after page of the protagonist’s diary managed to pull and push me with each bit of hys life experience. I’m at once familiar with being gender non-conforming in an urban space in the early aughts, and apart from the young genderqueer community Lowrey describes. This is a book, after all, located in a particular place (mostly Portland, Oregon) and time (late 2002 onward), and about a group of folks two trans generations younger than me. I know the situations the protagonist Click talks about–abusive and absent parents, inconsistently disbursed resources, a peer group that sometimes causes deep heartache, and living on the margins through gray markets and under-the-table agreements. I know these experiences, yes, but I’ve spent years trying to forget those struggles, so reading the universe through Click’s eyes is painful if not also somehow validating. It’s difficult to make it through late adolescence without the additional struggles Click and hyr friends have on their backs. Read More…

First Lines, Hooks, and Asking Too Much of Ten Words

First lines are the mules of literature these days—they do the heaviest lifting in a given book, needing to “hook” the reader into reading more. Writers, I’ve been told, need to show the characters, the overall context for the story, at least a glimpse of the story’s novelty, and the conflict that will drive the plot. That’s a ton of work for the start line of any marathon. Come to think of it, real starting lines only mark a space. First sentences in fiction mark well more than the small area they occupy. Blog after writing blog expresses concern for writers who send in the first several pages of their manuscript—are there enough motivators for readers right at the outset? One conference I attended had a “first page review” with a panel of agents and editors, and more often than not, the industry experts laughed at the submissions presented to them. Surely there were a few ugly dogs among the contenders, but even so, one mere sentence that is supposed to stand above all others is a precariously high bar, and it’s something that feels (to me) less about art or creative integrity to the piece, and much more about marketing standards and focus group data. Consider the following first sentences:

  • Call me Ishmael.
  • It was like so, but wasn’t.
  • All this happened, more or less.

Yes, I picked openings that set up the narrator (Moby Dick, Galatea 2.2, and Slaughterhouse-Five, respectively). Do they say enough as a discrete sentence? I may be a more generous reader than average, but I’m willing to stick with a text past the first 50-300 characters or 5-30 words. (Robinson Crusoe starts off with a 50+ sentence, by the way.) Some ideas may work better with a little set up and delivery. Read More…

Fiction Flashback: Stranger with My Face

This originally ran over at IFryMineinButter.com.

I was an avid fan of anything suspenseful when I was a teenager. Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz novels, Hitchcock movies, I soaked them up like lemonade. Once I had read through a book, chances are I would read it again immediately thereafter, in order to actually comprehend its pages sans hyperventilation. I entered into those narratives with high expectations, but not so for Stranger with My Face, by Lois Duncan. It was the first novel of hers that I read, and it spawned my love for all things fantastic. I think it’s fair to say that I read Ursula K. Le Guin because I read Duncan first, and yes, I understand how different these two writers are. Read More…

Mad Men’s Trans Narrative


I recently finished watching the fourth season of Mad Men, and am glad to call myself All Caught Up with the rest of the AMC-watching world, which in the grand scheme of things, is not that large. I’ll add here that I’m not nearly as happy to hear that Jon Hamm refuses to wear underwear unless he’s wearing skivvies in a scene. He may be handsome, but all I can think of is the unlucky dry cleaner on the set. Regarding his character, Don Draper, audiences have known since early in the first season that his identity is a stolen one, and the narrative around this subplot only gets more complicated from there. There are spoilers from here on out, so please consider this my warning. Read More…

Last-minute NaNoWriMo to do list

I’m gearing up to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month this year—for 2010 I plan to write a young adult speculative fiction story that will have LGBT themes and some homages to the 1970s, adventure tales, and classic time travel sci fi—so I had to put together my “to do” list before All Saints Day rolled around. For this novel, named PARALLAX, my list looks like this, in no particular order: Read More…

Friday Flash No. 7: Mummy

My heart was on fire, or at least, it felt like it was on fire. I kept one hand over the middle of my chest to double check. A nurse noticed and came over to me.

“Inez, are you in pain again?”

I nodded. I still wasn’t any good at talking. Not on a consistent basis.

The nurse leaned in and squinted at the monitor behind me. “I can only give you one more increase,” she said, twisting something on my IV line. “The pain should start to subside soon.” She patted me gently on my shoulder and I resisted jerking away. I smiled at her in as small a fashion as possible, so I wouldn’t tear the corners of my mouth. Read More…

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